Soon after Cameron died, my youngest daughter started becoming anxious. I realize losing your father at a young age (6 years old) is traumatizing but I had no idea of the ramifications.
At first her behavior seemed like she was just being difficult or whiny…. then it became serious. Leaving her to go to the grocery store would lead to her screaming. I would try to drop her off at school and the teacher had to rip her from my arms as she thrashed around hysterically crying. But the most heart breaking was tucking her in to bed at night and she would cry with worry that I would die and she wouldn’t have any parent left. She was wrecked with worry that I would die if I wasn’t in her very sight. All the time.
I spoke to my pediatrician, he referred a few therapist, and I scheduled an evaluation. My insurance covered my daughter being seen once a week by a licensed therapist who specialized in pediatrics. I couldn’t wait to get some help and for my daughter to get some relief.
We went to the first appointment and I felt like it was useless. We went again the following week and her behavior still continued. I continued these sessions for the next month or two and I felt it just wasn’t enough. One hour a week wasn’t even touching the amount of help she needed. She was becoming so difficult to handle and I needed help! She wouldn’t let me out of her sight, it was like having an infant! I eventually got her a cell phone and that seemed to help….a bit.
I contacted another therapist who seemed to have different techniques, we tried her, and had promising results. So a couple of hours a week I was driving my daughter to different appointments and we were working on breathing exercises and redirecting her thoughts….this was exhausting but I was willing to try anything! She was still having outburst but they were less and less severe. Over time she improved and was able to manage her anxious feelings through words and I was over joyed with her progress!
As Matt was introduced into my daughters life she began exhibiting anxious feelings again and even when he was in town visiting. Thankfully Matt was all onboard to help and before I moved to Utah, if he was in town, he would help her.
After Matt and I married, moved to Utah, and some time had passed, her anxiety seemed to spike. I tried holding her, consoling her, tried all of the breathing methods we learned previously, and tried redirecting her thoughts. Nothing worked. She would cry, scream, have shortness in breath, and trouble sleeping. It seemed this would happen right before bed almost every other night. Matt and I were exhausted! I was considering medicating her, this was becoming so difficult.
Then, BOOM! Out of nowhere a massive panic attack started happening and she literally struggled to breathe. Her throat seized up, she was gasping for air, and I panicked. My oldest son grabbed the car keys, we loaded her up, and headed to the hospital. “Drive Faster!!” I was yelling. I held her and she wasn’t doing well. Her entire body was shaking uncontrollably, she was gasping to get air in, and struggling to cry. It was difficult for her to speak but she was mumbling, “am I dying?!!!” over and over again. She was thrashing around trying to see if a different position would help. Nothing was helping. Was she dying?!!!!
What was happening?! Was this actual anxiety or something more serious?? I was terrified!! We made it to the hospital in 17 minutes–longest minutes of my life–and had her vitals taken. She eventually calmed down, was able to take longer breaths, and her coloring improved. The doctor said to us “anxiety is terrible, isn’t it”. Uhhhh, YES!
We headed home and talked about what was going on and what she had been thinking about. She told me she just wanted to die and not go through having anxiety anymore. She hated living with the thoughts in her head. She told me she felt like her daddy in heaven needed her there to be with him and that heaven was calling her. **Hearing that about broke me. I need her here with me! How could a 7 year old have these thoughts?
Matt and I prayed together for help and later he received a prompting: HE needed to heal her. “A Fathers love is what she needed” he told me. As the mom I felt she always needed me but okay, let’s give this a try.
It was hard for me to let go and not be the one to help her as she was crying, panicking, or begging for me, but Matt felt he needed to be the one. Ohh how I wanted to be the one! But, each night she would begin her attack, Matt would go to her. He spent hours holding her, talking her through her feelings, and just loving her. They spent time talking about Cameron and where he was now. She asked a lot of questions about death and what happens after this life. They worked it out together and each time, he calmed her down. He held her and loved her just as he would have for one of his birth children. No stepdad here, just DAD. He was showing her that he would always be there for her and she could feel his love.
How grateful I am for prayer and for a husband that follows his promptings. A fathers embrace and love has more medicinal help than anything I would have given her. Matt was just what she needed!
A year later, not a single anxiety attack. God is good!